WASHINGTON (CN) – After defending the Obama administration’s decision to read Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad his Miranda rights, Attorney General Eric Holder said the administration wants to expand the rules to give interrogators more flexibility when questioning suspected terrorists.
In an interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Holder suggested that the administration would shift its approach to Miranda rights in light of evidence that Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad was trained by the Taliban in Pakistan.
“The evidence that we’ve now developed shows that the Pakistani Taliban has directed this plot,” Holder said.
Holder said the administration wants to update the “public safety exception” to the Miranda rules to reflect the increased threat of terrorism.
Under the Supreme Court’s 1966 ruling in Miranda v. Arizona, which established Miranda rights, statements made during a police interrogation are not admissible in court unless a suspect has first been informed of his rights to remain silent and to consult a lawyer.
An exception added in 1984 specified that a police officer must read a suspect his Miranda rights before interrogation unless there is an imminent threat to public safety.
“We want the public safety exception to be consistent with the public safety concerns that we now have in the 21st century as opposed to the public safety concerns that we had back in the 1980s,” Holder said.
“I think we have to look at the rules that we have and look at the situation that we now confront,” he said. “We’re now dealing with international terrorists, and I think that we have to think about perhaps modifying the rules that interrogators have and somehow coming up with something that is flexible and is more consistent with the threat that we now face.”
Holder called the administration’s shift “big news.”
Republicans have asserted that reading Miranda rights discourages suspects from offering useful information and have argued that terrorist suspects should be treated as enemy combatants.
Federal law enforcement officials did not read Shahzad his Miranda rights for several hours after his arrest.
But Holder insisted that reading Miranda rights does not historically stop suspects from continuing to offer up information.
“One of the things that we have certainly seen is that the giving of Miranda warnings has not stopped these terror suspects from talking to us,” Holder said. “They have continued to talk even though we have given them a Miranda warning.”
In the case of Shahzad, “He was given his Miranda warnings after the public safety exception questioning was finished, and he has talked to us and he continues to talk to us,” Holder said.
Holder echoed the same sentiments in congressional testimony last week.
During a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing, Holder listed numerous cases in which people were read their Miranda rights “and still ultimately decided to speak with the government.”
“It is not conferring a right on somebody or treating them in a special way,” Holder said.
“The giving of Miranda warnings has not deterred people from talking to us, and Mr. Shahzad is, in fact, continuing to cooperate with us,” Holder said. He added that Shahzad has “provided useful information to us about his activities.”
Under the new law, terrorist suspects could have statements made during interrogations used against them in court even if they had not been informed of their Miranda rights. The decision brings into balance the government’s duty to preserve individual rights and the duty to maintain public safety.
“We want to work with Congress to come up with a way in which we make our public safety exception more flexible and, again, more consistent with the threat that we face,” Holder said.